Marion’s new reach-for-the-stars city administration may not be off to the most auspicious start, but it’s not yet time to turn their quest for positives into recriminations over negatives.
True, Woody Crawshaw’s resignation means Marion soon will be hiring its seventh city clerk — to go along with three administrators and three development directors — in four years.
True, Marion once again has been left out of the get-fixed-quick KDOT sweepstakes for downtown revitalization.
After losing Butler Community College as a tenant for Bown-Corby School and struggling to raise money for a bigger-than-life Central Park stage and restroom project, this hasn’t been the beginning that Marion’s new-age leaders hoped for.
But it does show that maybe some of the city’s old-school leaders weren’t as far off base as popular opinion would have.
When then-Mayor Mary Olson declined to nominate Crawshaw because he was the only candidate interviewed and had not been vetted by the full council, perhaps she should have been listened to rather than being dismissed amid whispers questioning her age and fitness.
The same sort of whispered allegations were blamed for failure of a previous bid for a beautification grant, but when the city’s new-age leaders took over and put through a renewed bid their way instead of Olson’s, things ended up exactly the same.
Skepticism is healthy when it isn’t paralyzing. Perhaps both the skepticism faced by the old regime and the skepticism that may now be greeting the new regime serve to remind us that all views, not just some, need to be accounted for if the city is to thrive.
The divides that plagued Marion for many years need not return. We were disappointed to see them when we noted that last week’s headline, which we thought exciting, about a possible apartment project at Bown-Corby, drew dramatically less readership than expected. The story finished as the 22nd most-read item among our website’s subscribers. From what we’ve learned, many skipped it because they didn’t believe it. They regarded it as just another hot prospect that, once shrouds of secrecy were removed, would turn out lukewarm or worse.
Marion getting its act together and stopping serving as the butt of jokes at other council meetings throughout the county is not something just for our leaders to worry about. It’s a goal all of us can work toward.
On social media, citizens constantly write of the need for the city to lure more business but offer no real ideas how to do so. Frequently this translates in official circles into sharp-pencil real-estate deals — as if cheap were the only lure the city has.
With a strategy of cheapness, all too often you get what you pay for, transforming a proud community into one filled with lowlifes who leave junk and vehicles on their lawns and pose added problems for law enforcement.
A broader, admittedly longer vision is needed — one that cleans up the town and invests in education, not just sports, and in needed public infrastructure. Marion’s current street project is a step in the right direction. So too would be investment in a broadband fiber optic backbone and in providing job skills more meaningful than running, blocking, and tackling.
It’s not ideas that Marion is lacking. It’s expertise in knowing how to implement them and willingness of all citizens — both those with body art and without— to concede that each have valid points.
If Marion wants to behave like more than a shrinking violet it needs outside expertise in how new-age government can be efficient without becoming expensive. Hiring officials with actual experience in their jobs, not just well-meaning intent, might be a good first step.
— ERIC MEYER